Introduction: Gay Rights Movement: Series 6: Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance

Archives, ca. 1972-1994: Part 4: Periodicals Collection

 

COLLECTION OVERVIEW

 

Organizational History

 

The Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) was founded in 1972 by a group of radical lesbians, many socialist and all feminist, who broke away from Atlanta’s Women’s Liberation Center and the Gay Liberation movement because they felt that neither had adequately addressed issues of concern to women as lesbians and lesbians as women. ALFA initially worked to fill a social void for and to offer a political voice to Atlanta lesbians, publicizing its efforts through a self-produced monthly newsletter, the Atalanta. Over the years, as the political and cultural climate changed and lesbians created new avenues through which to pursue their interests, ALFA struggled to find a clear and unique sense of purpose; this historically telling struggle is well-documented by ALFA itself, in minutes and mailings to its membership. In spite of its eventual decision to disband, ALFA remains known as one of the oldest lesbian feminist organizations in the United States, and a pioneer in the fight for lesbian, gay, and women’s rights.

 

One of the activities of ALFA - deeply concerned from the outset with the preservation of lesbian herstory - was to build and maintain the Southern Feminist Library and Archives (SFLA). The library and archives, which provided a material link between ALFA and other progressive movements and organizations throughout the world, included the archival records of ALFA and several other southern feminist groups; a massive collection of feminist, lesbian, and activist periodicals; and a circulating library of feminist and gay and lesbian books. ALFA disbanded in 1994 after over 20 years of Southern feminist activism.

 

Scope and Contents Note

 

When ALFA disbanded in 1994, the archival collections and the bulk of the periodicals collection were transferred to Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. The book collection and the remaining periodicals stayed in Atlanta, with books relating to feminist theory going to Emory University and the rest to a community library. The ALFA Archives and Periodicals Collections that were transferred to Duke are an incredibly rich source of information about feminist and lesbian activism and communities, especially in the Southeast, from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s.

 

The ALFA Archives includes the organizational records of ALFA as well as other southern radical women’s groups such as Lucina’s Music/Orchid Productions; Radio Free Georgia (WRFG) women’s programming; the womonwrites conference for lesbian writers and publishers; the Southern Women’s Music Festival; the Atlanta Socialist-Feminist Women’s Union; and Dykes for the Second American Revolution (DAR II). The extensive subject files, which are a part of ALFA’s archives, document scores of other feminist, lesbian, and activist organizations and events as well as provide information on a broad range of feminist and lesbian issues. Of particular note are ALFA’s Theory/Analysis (Women) files, as well as their collection of publications by KNOW, Inc.; using these primary materials, researchers can get a good sense of the issues that gave rise to the women’s liberation movement and to ALFA in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

 

The ALFA Periodicals collection contains literally hundreds of grassroots newsletters and journals, many of which are now ephemeral and not in any library. This extensive library of feminist, lesbian and gay, and activist periodicals is more fully described in the Introduction to the Periodicals Collection below.

 

Processing Note

 

For the most part, the original order of the ALFA Archives was maintained after being transferred to Duke. Several boxes, which had been in storage and never fully processed by ALFA, were organized upon arrival at the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. Minor rearrangement and consolidation of some of the ALFA records and subject files helped to reduce confusion and highlight areas of strength.

 

 

ALFA AND RELATED LESBIAN COMMUNITY TIMELINE

 

ALFA prepared the following timeline cataloging the events and milestones of the organization and related lesbian community through June 1984, at which time the organization apparently ceased updating the timeline. The remainder of the timeline was prepared by Ian Lekus, who wrote the Introduction to the Collection, and is based on the ALFA organization files and ALFA’s Atalanta newsletter.

 

1969: Great Speckled Bird’s Women’s Caucus forms

 

1970: Atlanta Women’s Liberation forms

 

1971: Gay Liberation Front forms and Womansong Theatre performs in Atlanta

 

Dec. 1971: “Sleeping Beauty: A Lesbian Fairy Tale” printed by Sojourner Truth Press (a woman’s press collective)

 

June 23, 1972: First ALFA meeting

 

Nov. 1972: First ALFA fundraiser (talent show) at the Twelfth Gate

 

Feb. 1973: Open House with MCC women

 

March 1973: Gay Conference in Atlanta; dance at GLF building on Pine Street

 

June 1973: First ALFA participation in Gay Pride March

 

July 1973: WRFG show “Lesbian Woman” begins; hosted by ALFA member; ALFA Pickets the Journal and Constitution in protest of their refusal to print info on ALFA events

 

Aug. 1973: Scarlet, the ALFA Steering Committee, is set up

 

Sept. 1973: First ALFA newsletter printed

 

Oct. 1973: Last ALFA meeting at 1190 Mansfield Ave, the Original ALFA House

 

Jan. 1974: First open lesbian participation in ERA Coalition and March

 

Feb. 1974: First 2 ALFA Rap Groups established; Susan B. Anthony Celebration, Rita Mae Brown reads from her new novel, Rubyfruit Jungle

 

June 1974: ALFA sponsors Gay 90’s Carnival during Gay Pride Week

 

July 1974: The first “out” lesbian softball team in the Atlanta City League, the ALFA Omegas, play their first league game.

 

Sept. 1974: Housewarming at the 2nd, and current, ALFA house; Margaret Mead interviewed for ALFA newsletter

 

Fall 1974: ALFA Poetry Group begins

 

Dec. 31, 1974: First performance of Red Dyke Theatre

 

Jan. 1975: ALFA sponsors fundraiser (Woman’s Dance) for ERA coalition at Ball Recreation Center; ALFA woman speaks at ERA Rally

 

Feb. 1975: Maria Isabel, one of “The Three Marias,” interviewed for ALFA newsletter

 

June 1977: Pokey Anderson (ALFA member in Houston, TX) elected National Co-chair of the National Gay Task Force (NGTF); Atlanta’s Gay Pride Association attempts to form the Atlanta Gay Rights Association

 

July 1977: Boogiewimmin created; Charis expands and opens new Women’s Section

 

Aug. 1977: Dykes Together, a lesbian AA group, forms

 

Oct. 1977: Benefit for Vicki Gabriner’s legal fight at the Sweet Gum Head

 

March 1978: Meg Christian and Teresa Trull in concert (Lucina’s); National Lesbian Organization founding Conference in Los Angeles

 

Mid 1978: Article by 2 ALFA women appears in “Our Right To Love,” a book produced by NGTF women.

 

April 1978: ALFA women active in planning the Southeast Conference Of Lesbians And Gay Men out of which emerges the Southeast Lesbian Network and the initial planning for a Lesbian Writer’s Conference

 

May 1978: “Lesbian Region” column in ALFA newsletter starts

 

June 1978: Anita Bryant speaks at the Southern Baptist National Convention and ALFA women join pickets at the World Congress Center

 

July 1978: First Antioch Intern placed with ALFA; Piano donated to the ALFA house; Sweet Honey & The Rock concert (Lucina’s); High Museum vetoes showing The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago

 

Sept. 1978: Southeast Conference To Build The Matriarchy held at the Pagoda

 

Oct. 1978: ALFA house painted and redecorated; Feminist Chorus practices at the ALFA house

 

Nov. 1978: ALFA Intern speaks at a Press Conference with representatives of First Tuesday and ACLU celebrating the defeat of the Briggs Initiative in California; Alix Dobkin concert (Lucina’s); Council On Battered Women opens shelter

 

Jan. 1979: First in a series of Community Sketches appears in the ALFA newsletter

 

Feb. 1979: Library Committee starts organization of Archives; Atlanta Gay Center starts functioning

 

March 1979: Feminist writers Judith McDaniel and Maureen Brady of Spinsters Ink speak at the ALFA house

 

April 1979: Margie Adam concert (Lucina’s)

 

Aug. 1981: ALFA member, Margo George, receives the Gama “Humanitarian Award” for 1981; The Chamberpot performs at ALFA’s birthday party

 

Nov. 1981: Southern Feminist Library & Archives is incorporated; Matrix Music and Orchid Productions forms out of Lucina’s

 

Dec. 1981: Committee to Make ALFA House Barrier Free (Aka - the Ramp Committee) forms

 

Jan. 1982: Women’s radio group forms, instigated by ALFA women working at WRFG

 

Feb. 1982: 5 week Sign Language Class starts at ALFA house

 

March 1982: Lesbian Family Support Group forms

 

April 1982: ALFA decides to start a House Fund for eventual down-payment on permanent house

 

May 1982: Ramp built - ALFA is wheelchair accessible!!; First open meeting of Sisters, a support group for Black lesbians

 

June 1982: ALFA-10 t-shirts printed

 

Aug. 1982: ALFA Benefit Night (special showing) at Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party at the FOX Theatre; Celebration of ALFA’s 10th Birthday - first public performance of the Atlanta Women’s Chorus and last (?) performance by Moral Hazard (sob!)

 

April 1983: Rita Mae Brown book signing at Charis

 

June 1983: Lesbian Pride March in Little 5 Points

 

June 1983: Black Women’s Health Project holds National Conference at Spelman

 

July 1983: Jewish Lesbian Support Group forms

 

Aug. 1983: First Southern Feminist Library & Archives Newsletter Printed

 

Oct. 1983: ALFA women at Women’s Peace Encampment near Savannah River Plant - Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) forms

 

Sept. 1983: Take Back The Night march

 

Oct. 1983: Kate Millett speaks at GA State University

 

Nov. 1983: First performance of the Jane Doe Band at the Tower Lounge

 

Nov. 1983: Atlanta City Council passes three anti-discrimination ordinances; the Atlanta Anti-Discrimination Project (AADP) formed by BWMT and jointed by ALFA to address compliance with the new law

 

Jan. 1984: Fat Dykes organization meeting

 

Feb. 1984: Older Lesbian Energy (OLE) starts meeting in Little 5 Points Community Center

 

Feb. 1984: Lesbians For Empowerment, Action & Politics (LEAP) formed from Southeast Lesbian Conference planner’s meeting

 

March 1984: ALFA night at Sammies

 

March 1984: Robin Tyler at ALFA house

 

March 1984: Evelyn Beck, editor of Nice Jewish Girls, speaks at GSU on Jew-hating, racism and homophobia

 

May 1984: Jean Swallow & Sherry Thomas, authors of Out From Under: Sober Dykes & Their Friends, at Charis

 

May 1984: Jewish Lesbian Writers Group forms

 

May 1984: First Women’s Music & Comedy Festival held in N. Georgia

 

June 1984: Premier of Out & About, gay/lesbian TV show on channel 16

 

June 1984: Lesbian Softball Tournament during Lesbian & Gay Pride Week; All-Star game with men from Hotlanta League

 

June 1984: Sonia Johnson speaks at Gay Pride rally

 

July 1984: ALFA representatives and other Atlanta lesbian and gay activists meet with Atlanta police commissioner and chief to discuss community-police relations

 

Summer 1984: 250 people attend First Southeastern Lesbian/Gay Health Conference in Augusta, GA

 

Aug. 1984: Women Against Military Madness lead discussion on Women’s Peace Encampment near Savannah River nuclear plant

 

Oct. 1984: Lesbian Empowerment In Action And Politics (LEAP) retreat held on women-owned rural land near Gainesville, FL

 

Nov. 1984: Party/reading/crafts festival for Charis Books & More tenth anniversary

 

Dec. 1984: Evelyn Newman, staff member from National Anti-Klan Network (later the Center for Democratic Renewal), makes presentation at ALFA house

 

Feb. 1985: Alix Dobkin performs in Atlanta

 

Apr. 1985: Lesbian comedienne and political satirist Kate Clinton performs at Dancers Collective

 

June 1985: Reading at Charis Books & More by Rosemary Curb, co-editor of Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence

 

Sept. 1985: Benefit concert by The Witt Sisters for the Southern Feminist Library and Archives

 

Sept. 1985: Atlanta African American women make presentation at U.N. Women’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya

 

Nov. 1985: First ALFA costume ball

 

Mar. 1986: Lesbian Herstory Archives slide show at ALFA house

 

Mar. 1986: SFLA/ALFA purchases house at 64 Clay Street

 

May 1986: Audre Lorde reads at Seven Stages

 

June 1986: Beth York represents ALFA and Atlanta women’s community at International Women’s Music Festival in BeerSheva, Israel

 

June 1986: U.S. Supreme Court votes 5-4 to uphold Georgia sodomy law in Bowers v. Hardwick. ALFA members take part in subsequent discussions and protests

 

Oct. 1986: ALFA/Boogiewimmin retreat at John Tanner State Park, featuring Amazon Mud Wrestling

 

Nov. 1986-Oct. 1987: ALFA women and other local activists publicize, sponsor benefit events, and debate platform for second National March On Washington For Lesbian And Gay Rights held Oct. 11, 1987

 

Feb. 1987: Feminist theologian Mary Daly reads at Emory University

 

Mar. 1987: Cris Williamson and Tret Fure performance at Peachtree Playhouse

 

April 1987: Fat Dykes erotica show and tell

 

April 1987: Women’s Cycling Network first Southeast Conference at Atlanta

 

April 1987: Atlanta March Committee sponsors Romanovsky And Phillips benefit concert for October March on Washington

 

May 1987: ALFA helps host Atlanta March Committee’s Third National Conference Of March For Lesbian And Gay Rights. ALFA and Black and White Men Together/Atlanta co-sponsor benefit at The Bar on Peachtree

 

June 1987: Karen Thompson speaks at Charis Books & More about her legal case to win access to her partner, Sharon Kowalski, who was severely injured and permanently incapacitated in a 1983 car accident. Other June and July 1987 readings at Charis include Mab Segrest & Mini Bruce Pratt, Margaret Randall & Gloria Anzaldúa, and bell hooks.

 

Aug. 1987: Atlanta Feminist Women’s Chorus holds 70+ family yard sale to support the chorus’ trip to the March On Washington

 

Oct. 1987: ALFA takes part in National March On Washington, civil disobedience protests at U.S. Supreme Court against Bowers v. Hardwick decision

 

Oct. 1987: ALFA house’s rental apartment burglarized

 

Oct. 1988: Boogiewimmin produce “Family Feud”-style “Dueling Dykes” game show fundraising event for Southern Feminist Library And Archives

 

Fall 1988: SLFA issues promissory notes to finance mortgage from ALFA house purchase

 

Jan. 1989: Southeast Regional meeting held at Emory University to plan first National Lesbian Agenda Conference. In March, Atlanta outbids five other cities to win the right to host the conference. In April, Atlanta Lesbian Agenda Conference Committee (ALACC) forms and begins meeting at ALFA house to conduct host committee work

 

Mar. 1989: Boogiewimmin hold “Mortgage-Busting Auction.” Promissory notes, auction, and gifts raise $27,600 from the lesbian community to successfully pay off balloon mortgage on the ALFA house.

 

May 1989: ALFA co-sponsors speech by Ramon Cardona, a representative of El Salvador’s FMLN (Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberación Nacional), with the Atlanta Committee On Latin America and numerous other local social justice organizations

 

May 1989: Pam Martin, a leader of ALFA and Fat Dykes leader, dies at age 44, weeks after moving to Minnesota. Memorial services held in Atlanta, Minneapolis and at Southern Women’s Music And Comedy Festival, while Panther LL (gay male Levi/Leather club) holds fundraiser to support ALFA and to subsidize ALFA members’ participation in Minneapolis memorial service

 

Nov. 1989: Georgia Abortion Rights Action League leads march and rally at state capitol in defense of reproductive rights

 

Nov.-Dec. 1989: Pro-Choice Coalition invites Metro Atlanta Council Of Gay And Lesbian Organizations (to which ALFA belongs) to join. Some gay men object to joining the abortion rights coalition, prompting protest from feminist members (both women and men) of MACGLO. The disagreement is one of several controversies that leads MACGLO to disband in Jan. 1991

 

Winter 1989/1990: Act-Up/Atlanta forms women’s committee and holds protest at state capitol against Georgia sodomy laws

 

Feb. 1990: AFLA/Boogiewimmin and Fourth Tuesday co-sponsor Winter Madness Dance

 

Mar.-Apr. 1990: ALFA and ALACC host ALACC’s state conference in advance of April 1991 national conference; ALFA’s annual spring Azalea Dance timed to coincide with state conference

 

June 1990: Judy Grahn performs at Seven Stages Performing Arts Center

 

Jan. 1991: Mab Segrest leads anti-racism workshop in lead-up to National Lesbian Conference

 

Jan. 1991: Four ALFA members take part in an Atlanta peace vigil on eve of Persian Gulf War

 

April 1991: National Lesbian Conference held in Atlanta, April 24-28

 

June 1991: In response to decreasing participation in the organization, ALFA hosts community potluck dinner to discuss whether to keep the group active

 

June 1991: 18 Queer Nation/Atlanta protestors arrested at major demonstration against Cracker Barrel restaurant chain’s policies to fire lesbian and gay employees. ALFA members take part in ongoing Cracker Barrel protests

 

June 1991: 30,000 people take part in Atlanta’s largest lesbian/gay pride march to date; ALFA marches in between Resist/Dissent and Digging Dykes of Decatur

 

Sept. 1991: To revitalize lesbian-feminist community interest in ALFA, Feminist Exchange committee forms and initiates Second Saturday Series on topics such as butch-femme politics, alternative health, and breast cancer

 

Oct. 1991: Five ALFA members arrested in Orlando at nursing home owners’ lobbyist convention for protesting in support of the rights of people with disabilities

 

Dec. 1991: ALFA co-sponsors Take Back Our Rights celebration/protest with 20 other community groups to mark the bicentennial of the federal Bill of Rights

 

Jan. 1992: Lesbian and gay community leaders announce plans to “queer” the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, demanding repeal of the state sodomy law, passage of a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation, and local adoption of domestic partner legislation

 

Mar. 1992: Ecofeminist activist Barbara Rose offers Women’s Bicycle Workshop at ALFA house

 

Nov. 1992: To address limited increase in participation since June 1991 community meeting, 12 members attend ALFA general membership to vote upon whether or not ALFA should shut its doors. Members agree to keep ALFA open

 

Dec. 1992: ALFA member invited to join Fulton County Commission’s Gay and Lesbian Advisory Commission

 

Jan. 1993: Sarah Schulman reads and presents video on Lesbian Avengers at Charis Books & More

 

Jan. 1993: ALFA takes part in pro-choice rally to mark 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade; U.S. Representatives John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney lead the march

 

April 1993: Members present slide show on ALFA’s history and future to packed house at Charis Books & More

 

Aug. 1993: Leslie Feinberg and Chrystos readings at Charis Books & More

 

Fall 1993: ALFA begins negotiations with various southern libraries to find a new home for its archives

 

Apr. 1994: ALFA members vote to close down the organization. Archives sold to Duke University

 

 

INTRODUCTION TO THE PERIODICALS COLLECTION

 

Civil Writes: Movement Publishing and the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection, 1969-1994

 

Scholarship on modern American feminism, the history of sexuality, and social justice organizing in the United States since the 1960s cannot be considered complete without taking into account the politics and culture generated by lesbian feminists. For many women alienated by the widespread sexism they encountered in that decade’s civil rights and antiwar movements, feminism offered a new way to connect the personal and the political. Feminism offered a theoretical foundation for an alternative social structure to one in which men determined political, social, economic, and cultural relations. However, any notions that a universal sisterhood linked all women were quickly shattered as women of color, working-class women, and lesbians questioned the biases and assumptions of the pioneers of what has come to be called Second Wave Feminism.

 

For many lesbians, the emergent feminist movement quickly proved an inhospitable home. Betty Friedan and other leaders of the National Organization for Women warned of a “lavender menace” that threatened feminism and moved to silence or expel lesbians who were insufficiently discreet regarding their orientation. Roxanne Dunbar of the Boston-based Cell 16 declared that feminism’s task was to get out of bed rather than to change the sex of their partners. Still other feminist activists resented the accusations made by some sexist men and antifeminist women that all members of the feminist movement were lesbians.

 

At the dawn of the 1970s, lesbian activists rose up to challenge the prejudices of their heterosexual sisters. One group, the Radicalesbians, issued “The Woman Identified Woman” paper, arguing that lesbianism was not merely a matter of sexual preference. Instead, they argued that relationships between women lay at the heart of creating feminist consciousness and cultural revolution. This philosophy posited lesbianism as a political solution to women’s oppression. In this view, sexual desire followed political orientation, with lesbianism being the logical extension of the feminist commitment to create women’s space, women’s culture, and women’s organizations.

 

The relationships that developed through the daily labor of organizing for women’s rights and through consciousness-raising groups and communal living arrangements fostered intense personal and political intimacy among feminists. A number of women experimented with lesbian relationships - some briefly, others more permanently. Because those lesbian-feminists who joined gay liberation groups commonly found that nascent movement’s internal culture to be as sexist as the women’s liberation movement was homophobic, they created their own organizations, women’s centers, coffeehouses, publications, and other lesbian-oriented places and spaces.

 

Over the next twenty years or so, a “Lesbian Nation” evolved, a political and cultural phenomenon that nurtured women-oriented cultural expression and worked to combat various forms of oppression. Naiad Press and Diana Press were just two of the many publishers spearheading an explosion in feminist publishing, while women-focused newsletters appeared and vanished across the country on what seemed like an almost daily basis. Women’s music helped create a national sense of lesbian-feminist community through extensive networks of highly popular performers and festivals. Women also dedicated themselves to reimagining the divine, often by exploring ancient matriarchal and earth-centered religions.

 

What lesbian-feminism did and did not comprise remained an open question; in fact, that tension became a defining quality of the movement, especially as notions of lesbian culture and politics grew increasingly diverse through the 1980s and into the early 1990s. While some lesbians questioned whether to work on issues such as childcare and domestic violence (which some interpreted to be the domain of heterosexual women) or AIDS (often seen as the province of gay men), others committed themselves to an all-inclusive, coalition-driven approach to social justice. In some instances, this multi-prolonged approach appeared to generate contradictory results. So while some lesbian-feminists strongly denounced pornography for denigrating and exploiting women, others argued just as vigorously for the freedom of sexual expression.

 

Confronting Invisibility and Oppression in “The City Too Busy to Hate”

 

The Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) illustrates how these dynamics played out. ALFA grew out of the community of antiwar, civil rights, and other social justice activists and members of the counterculture clustered together in the Little Five Points neighborhood near the Emory University campus. White flight to Atlanta’s suburbs helped create a neighborhood where recent college graduates and community members more dedicated to political organizing than to professional careers could afford to live. By 1971, Little Five Points was home to a visible lesbian-feminist community, and women in the neighborhood held the first meeting of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance in June 1972. Vicki Gabriner, commenting on the Atlanta Women’s Liberation in which she had been involved, noted that that group “was too straight,” while the Georgia “Gay Liberation Front was too male.” Lorraine Fontana, a former VISTA volunteer in inner-city Atlanta and a writer for the local countercultural-political newspaper, The Great Speckled Bird, explained that “we need to organize ourselves; we need not to have to fight with these notions of sexism. We want a women’s-only space - a place where women who come from other neighborhoods or outside of Atlanta…can come to just be with other lesbians.”

 

ALFA members created such women’s spaces in Little Five Points, first renting two houses as feminist communes. In 1986, after years of fundraising, ALFA purchased its own house on Clay Street, which members renovated and made wheelchair-accessible. It was used for political, social, and educational meetings and housed the Southern Feminist Library and Archives, the core of which now exists as the ALFA Periodicals Collection. ALFA proclaimed itself a “lesbian-feminist organization open to all lesbians,” whose concerns included the entire spectrum of lesbian-feminist issues. That agenda included liberating women, ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, and eliminating oppression derived from racism, anti-Semitism, economic inequality, and physical disability or appearance. It advocated an end to militarism, as well as the responsible, non-exploitative use of the world’s living and non-living resources.

 

Documenting a Movement

 

“The struggle of humanity against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” Milan Kundera wrote in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. For the women of ALFA, this principle lay at the heart of their activism. Collecting, preserving, and disseminating women’s knowledge was central to ALFA members’ mission to work for social justice, share their experiences, and heal both themselves and the world at large. The most visible form of this activism was the creation of the Southern Feminist Library and Archives, which comprised much of the ALFA Periodicals Collection and ALFA Archives now held at the Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

 

Throughout its history, ALFA served as a public repository of social, economic, political, and cultural information for the women’s and gay communities. In creating the Southern Feminist Library and Archives, ALFA organizers prioritized collecting women’s books, periodicals, and personal papers from across North America and beyond. They also collected extensive materials from Georgia liberal, progressive, and radical groups with whom lesbian-feminists were likely to create coalitions. The volunteer archivists placed particularly high emphasis on documenting the works of lesbians in general and of the lesbians and gay men in the southeastern United States.

 

The ALFA Archives are invaluable to scholars writing national accounts of U.S. social movements since the 1960s. Moreover, it is virtually unthinkable to write lesbian/gay or feminist histories of the post-Stonewall American South without using this collection. The Periodicals Collection, along with the companion ALFA Archives, clearly demonstrates how ALFA members understood themselves to be situated within regional and national networks connecting diverse progressive social movements as well as urban and rural communities.

 

The microfilm edition of the Periodicals Collection will provide essential primary source materials to scholars interested in lesbian and gay studies, feminism, social movements and community activism, and cultural politics and production. Historians, sociologists, and political scientists will be able to make extensive use of the Periodicals, as will scholars from programs in women, gender, and sexuality studies, cultural studies, and library and information science. The Archives are as rewarding for undergraduate and graduate students and for junior scholars researching honors’ and masters’ theses, dissertations, and first monographs as they are for senior scholars writing synthetic works in these fields.

 

Thematically, the Periodicals Collection documents a vast array of political and cultural issues of concern to lesbian/gay and feminist activists across North America and beyond from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Topics represented include civil rights legislation and court cases, questions of race and class, AIDS and other health concerns and crises, sexual assault and domestic violence, urban and rural community building, ecology and nuclear power, international solidarity movements and the rights of women and sexual minorities across the globe, disabilities, religion and spirituality, self-defense and the martial arts, sports, aging, pornography and sexual expression, music, poetry and prose, satire and other forms of humor, and student and youth issues.

 

Because documenting social movements comprised a core pillar of ALFA’s mission, its Library and Archives arranged acquisitions of key women’s liberation, gay liberation, homophile, and countercultural publications whose emergence predated the founding of ALFA. Early feminist newspapers in the Collection include those from large cities such as Everywoman (Los Angeles) and RAT (the New York underground newspaper taken over by feminists in 1970), as well as a run of The Female Liberation of Durham-Chapel Hill Newsletter. Additionally, the Periodicals Collection contains most of the 1962-1972 run of The Ladder, the preeminent lesbian serial of the late 1950s and the 1960s, which was published by the Daughters of Bilitis. ALFA members also arranged to archive the 1969 “On the Liberation of Women” and 1972 gay male and lesbian-feminist issues of motive, the magazine of the 1960s-era Methodist Student Movement.

 

As the AIDS crisis brought lesbian-feminist and gay male activists together in substantial numbers for the first time since the early days of gay liberation, many women also wrestled with a new feminist ethos that seemed to privilege the personal and the cultural over the political. The 1978-1993 run of Lesbian News, published in Los Angeles, illustrates this contested evolution. Early issues of what started out as a California-focused newsletter took up highly political issues such as the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, and Dianne Feinstein’s subsequent inauguration as San Francisco’s first female mayor; the 1979 lesbian and gay march on Washington, D.C.; the Briggs state ballot initiative which would have banned lesbians and gay men from teaching in public schools; the Equal Rights Amendment; and the boycott of Coors-brand beers (based on the Coors family’s decades of financial support for anti-gay and anti-feminist organizations, its union-busting activities, its unabashed opposition to the Civil Rights Act and affirmative action, and its advocacy of closer ties with the South African apartheid government). Early 1990s issues featured feminist zines, queer youth, lesbian sex clubs and weddings, and the Dinah Shore women’s golf tournament, which draws thousands of lesbians to Palm Springs every year. The January 1992 edition featured a cover story on women’s music twenty years after its emergence, with Olivia Records President Judy Dlugacz and singers Alix Dobkin and Cris Williamson contrasting their long-term accomplishments in feminist communities with the contemporary mainstream success of Melissa Etheridge and Tracy Chapman.

 

Think Globally, Archive Locally

 

Not surprisingly, the Periodicals Collection holdings pertaining to the Atlanta metropolitan area are especially rich. They demonstrate the intricacies of community formation, mobilization, and sustenance over more than two decades, and will be especially interesting to scholars exploring how communities are dynamic entities which evolve over time. Moreover, they offer a deep vein to researchers interested in the complex interplay of social, political, and cultural organizations that constitute communities in civil society. From the early 1970s through the mid-1990s, several Atlanta newspapers offered sweeping coverage of the gay and lesbian community, though their reporting usually paid far greater attention to gay men’s interests than those of the lesbian community. The male-oriented Atlanta Barb published in the early 1970s not long after gay liberation groups began to organize in the city, while ALFA subscribed to the Atlanta Gay Center’s The News from 1979 to 1993. Southern Voice, Atlanta’s most comprehensive LGBT community newspaper to date, began publishing in 1988, and the Periodicals Collection holdings are nearly complete through 1994.

 

Other remarkable holdings include a full run of the first eleven volumes (1982-1994) of Black and White Men Together/Atlanta’s newsletter, along with the 1988-1994 issues of Fourth Tuesday Forum, the eponymous publication of a leading social organization for Atlanta lesbians. There are extensive holdings of newsletters from PFLAG/Atlanta (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in the Periodicals Collection (1986-1988), as well as from the Atlanta Business and Professional Guild (1982-1984). The newsletters of local and regional campus gay and lesbian student groups from schools such as Emory University and Georgia State University are included in the collection. The impact of the AIDS epidemic in Atlanta is documented by the collection, with issues of the Atlanta NAPWA News and the AIDS Survival Project Newsletter, the latter of which offers people living with HIV/AIDS research updates, community calendars, project listings, medical advice columns, and legal, insurance, and nutrition information.

 

ALFA members made concerted efforts to collect lesbian and gay community publications from across Georgia and the greater Southeast. Scattered holdings document the Athens Gay/Lesbian Alliance (1984-1985) and Augusta’s gay and lesbian contact group (1984-1985), while a 1986-1994 run of the First City Network News traces the history of the gay and lesbian community of Savannah and southeastern Georgia. Beyond the Peach State, the SFLA collected newspapers from southern cities such as Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Tuscaloosa; the nearly complete 1981-1990 run of The Gaze, a Memphis gay newspaper, is one especially rich example of this type. Lesbian-specific holdings include Austin’s Goodbye to All That (1975-1978), Louisville’s Lesbian Feminist Union Newsletter (1976-1978), The Newsletter of Durham-Chapel Hill (1982-1994), the Tuscaloosa Lesbian Coalition’s newsletter (1989-1993), and Richmond’s Lesbian Feminist Flyer (1978-1994). The SFLA also archived southern feminist publications such as Montgomery’s From NOW On (1974-1977), and the newsletters of the Tallahassee Area Women’s Network (1988-1994), the Nashville Women’s Alliance’s (1978-1994), and the Charlotte Women’s Center (1975-1987).

 

Atlanta-area feminist publications also comprise a significant element in the Periodicals Collection. The archives hold a near-complete 1974-1992 run of the newsletter from the Atlanta chapter of the National Organization for Women, and comparably deep holdings (1981-1993) from GARAL, the Georgia Abortion Rights Action League affiliated with the national NARAL. Atlanta Women’s ERA (1977-1978) and ERA Georgia (1979-1981) document local and statewide lobbying on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment and other pro-feminist legislation. The newsletters of the Georgia Women’s Political Caucus, which are especially deep during the early 1980s, offer further evidence for researchers of women’s participation in formal political processes.

 

The geographic coverage of the ALFA Periodicals Collection is sweeping, to say the very least. Beyond the Southeast, the archive holds newspapers and newsletters from Austin, Bennington (Vermont), Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Iowa City, Los Angeles, Madison, Milwaukee, New York, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Tulsa. Canadian publications from Montreal, Saskatoon, and Vancouver are included, and the most noteworthy Canadian newspaper in the collection is The Body Politic (1974-1987). This internationally influential Toronto newspaper remained committed to gay liberation’s sweeping vision of social justice even while organized gay male politics took a centrist turn in the years between the decline of the New Left and the emergence of the AIDS epidemic. The Collection also includes select materials from beyond North America. Some are lesbian-specific, such as Lesbian Network from Rozelle (New South Wales), Australia. Others are general women’s magazines, perhaps most notably one issue of News Letter, a Teheran-based publication with articles on Iranian women after the 1979 Revolution and in the Iran-Iraq War. The Collection also includes individual or scattered issues of publications from Amsterdam, Havana, Helsinki, Köln, Madrid, Oslo, and West Berlin.

 

Changers and the Changing

 

In accordance with its broad mission for social justice, ALFA members collected periodicals from anti-racist, international solidarity, environmental, and other activist organizations with whom they were likely to form coalitions. As such, this collection contains the Atlanta-based National Anti-Klan Network’s newsletters from the first half of the 1980s; scattered issues of the Atlanta Clergy and Laity Concern’s Atlanta Report from the early 1980s; and a large run of 1983-1991 newsletters from the Atlanta Committee on Latin America.

 

ALFA members’ concern for environmental justice is well documented in the Periodicals Collection. Many women from ALFA took part in the feminist peace encampments at the Savannah River Plant in Barnwell, South Carolina, one of the two U.S. facilities producing plutonium and tritium for nuclear weapons in the early and mid-1980s. While extensive materials documenting this work are available in the ALFA Archives, the Periodicals Collection includes the 1980s run of Georgians Against Nuclear Energy and selected issues of The Peace Option, the newsletter of the Atlanta Freeze, affiliated with the national Nuclear Freeze/Jobs With Peace Campaign (later SANE/FREEZE).

 

One other noteworthy newspaper is a 1978 issue of Supporters of Silkwood, a publication dedicated to continuing the work of Karen Silkwood, the chemical technician at a Kerr-McGhee plutonium processing plant in Oklahoma who died in a suspicious one-car crash in 1974. Her death took place after she left a meeting of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers’ Union to meet with a New York Times reporter, in order to deliver evidence she had gathered to support her claim that Kerr-McGhee negligently allowed workers to be exposed to plutonium. The Supporters of Silkwood issue includes updates from the legal cases brought by her estate against Kerr-McGhee, a chronology of events of her life and the fallout from her fatal car crash, lyrics of a song by feminist folksinger Fred Small about her, and news of a Bonnie Raitt concert held to publicize the case.

 

Some women sought to combine their environmental politics with their desire to build their own lesbian-feminist communities in rural areas. A nearly complete run of Maize: A Lesbian Country Magazine offers a snapshot of this phenomenon. The magazine includes announcements, articles, book reviews, cartoons, correspondence, and photographs showing the physical, intellectual, and cultural labor that women performed in order to build these new communal homes in California, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and other parts of the United States, and as far away as Aotearoa/New Zealand. One essay offers the perspective of the Oregon Womon’s Land Trust in Wolf Creek Oregon, who encountered difficulties when they tried to buy out the shares of land co-owned by members of an adjacent gay male commune. Other pieces discuss women’s art colonies, gardening, herbs, vegetarianism, dispute resolution, financial planning for land acquisition, and the feminist peace encampment at Greenham Common in Berkshire, England.

 

Researchers looking to explore how lesbians and gay men have struggled to find welcoming and affirming spiritual homes will find the ALFA Periodicals Collection a boon. Particularly well-documented are the labors of lesbians and gay men in Atlanta and throughout the Southeast to create their own religious institutions and communities. The Collection includes the newsletter runs from Atlanta’s two congregations affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Church, an international Protestant fellowship founded in Los Angeles in 1968 by and primarily for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender persons. The run of newsletters from First MCC of Atlanta spans 1979-1994, while the All Saints MCC newsletters cover 1989-1992.

 

Scholars will also find useful materials uncovering how lesbians and gay men worked to incorporate their feminist and sexual politics into traditional religious institutions. The Periodicals Collection includes several newsletters along these lines, such as Dignity Atlanta and Integrity Atlanta (lesbian/gay Catholic and Episcopal groups, respectively), along with the Norfolk Unitarian Universalist Gay Community’s Our Own. Also represented are a 1978-1985 run of the Evangelical Outreach Ministries Newsletter (later re-titled Bridges), an Atlanta-based network for lesbians and gay men from Evangelical traditions. Especially noteworthy are the newsletters of Congregation Bet Haverim, Atlanta’s only Reconstructionist synagogue, which local lesbians and gay men founded in 1985 in order to live openly within their Jewish heritage. With its notices of social events and volunteer opportunities with Jewish Family Services, Chanukah stories and accounts of hamantaschen bake-offs, the congregation’s newsletter is as valuable for researchers studying regional and religious identity as it is for scholars in sexuality and gender studies.

 

More generally, the newsletters and magazines of the ALFA Periodicals Collection offer incomparable evidence of the evolution and vast diversity of the women and men involved in the lesbian/gay and feminist movements. They range from the typewritten newsletters of the Charlotte Women’s Center to the early issues of BLK, a glossy magazine published for African-American gay men and lesbians which began publishing in 1988. They are as politically divergent as the Gay Activist Alliance’s Gay Activist (scattered 1973-1979 issues) and Gay Clone (scattered 1977-1978 issues). Both published in New York, GAA lobbied for mainstream acceptance and looked unfavorably upon feminist and gay liberation politics, while gay anarchists published Gay Clone.

 

The Personal Is Political

 

Even beyond community newspapers and organizational publications, the ALFA Periodicals Collection offers incomparable evidence demonstrating how lesbian, gay, and feminist activists interpreted the widely shared principle that “the personal is political.” One such example is the near-complete run of Mom’s Apple Pie from 1975 through 1994, published by the Lesbian Mothers Defense Fund. Mom’s Apple Pie covers the diverse ways lesbian mothers negotiated the vast array of legal, social, and cultural challenges they faced in a society premised upon women and men raising children together. Golden Threads served a readership of lesbians who passed the half-century mark. Extensive holdings of Fighting Woman News (1975-1989) cover the feminist martial arts movement, as women claimed their physical and psychological rights to self-defense in a traditionally male arena.

 

While some periodicals in this collection are notable for their extensive holdings, other titles are remarkable for their rarity. The one issue of Montana Women’s Resource (summer 1976) offers articles on women leaving the state in order to have abortions, herbal treatments for yeast infections, information on birth control pills and IUDs, a Barbara Ehrenreich essay on women healers and male doctors through history, the Equal Rights Amendment and other feminist concerns for the upcoming presidential election, women and science fiction, and a review of Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed, a novel about an anarchist utopia. Other such rare holdings include one issue of Asian Lesbians of the East Coast; one of Gay Comix, edited by Howard Cruse, a pioneer in gay and lesbian cartoon art; two very early issues of Girljock, about lesbians and sports, before the publication evolved into a widely circulated glossy magazine; a single mailing from Sissies in Struggle, offering poetry and a resource list for men who rejected traditional definitions of masculinity. Five issues (1975-1977) of the Susan Saxe Defense Committee Newsletter, published in support of the lesbian whose arrest on charges related to her involvement in anti-imperialist revolutionary movements, prompted heated controversy among feminist activists in the mid-1970s.

 

Over the last third of the twentieth century, the United States and the international community witnessed epochal transformations in the politics and culture of gender and sexuality. Those shifts are as fundamental as silicon to the networks that tie us together in a global knowledge economy, but their histories can be ephemeral as the elections that run through the fiber-optics cables crisscrossing the planet. The microfilm edition of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection documents the extraordinary intellectual and material labor that generated these revolutions, and preserves an essential record for scholars writing these histories for generations to come.

 

Ian Lekus
Duke University

 

 

EDITORIAL NOTE

 

Documents from the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Archives, ca. 1972-1994, from the holdings of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University, is published in four parts. This collection guide contains a detailed description of Part IV, The Periodicals Collection, as well as a full introduction to it.

 

Format

 

This guide lists serials gathered by the membership of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance during the period of its existence.

 

Selection Process

 

Two criteria were applied to the selection of materials. The first was rarity. Serials that, according to a review on OCLC, indicated a significant number of holders - regardless of format (i.e., print, microform or digital) - were excluded. Serials for which permission to reprint in microform was not granted were excluded. Otherwise, permission was requested for every individual periodical to reproduce in microform.

 

Information Provided

 

Titles are sorted roughly in alphabetical order, with volume, issues, and date information recorded, where available. The date on which the individual issues arrived at the headquarters of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance was recorded as well under “Date Rec’d,” allowing for some form of dating where none may have been provided by the individual issue. Part IV, The Periodicals Collection is further subdivided into five units.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

The project would not have been possible without assistance from many individuals. Primary Source Media, an imprint of Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, wishes to thank Amy Leigh, Assistant Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s Studies at Duke University, for her commitment to making these historical resources widely available and for overseeing the preparation of materials by student aides for filming; Linda McCurdy, Director of Research Services at the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke, for her assistance in supervising the scanning of the collection; Ian Lekus, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University who provided insight into the collection for the staff of Primary Source Media, wrote the introductions to the collection, and updated the ALFA timeline; the host of student aides at Duke for their diligent preparation of materials for scanning; the staff of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke for their assistance and cooperation, which made examination of the materials go smoothly.